Women, please stop marrying yourselves girls…

Calling all single ladies!

Calling all single ladies!

Calling all single ladies! Are you tired of society’s stigma surrounding your relationship status? Want a way to stick it to the haters? Well, this hot new trend is for you! It’s called marrying yourself and it’s come to the fore recently, most likely because it’s seen as a feminist act. There was one in Taiwan. Then one in the UK, followed by a small number in the US.

Reading about the public ritual of self-love takes me back to my early twenties. A time when my attendance at weddings was so prolific it felt like a part time job. It seemed like every second week there was a new destination, another day to take off work, a new bridal registry to navigate. I never had a ‘plus one’ – no takers, only heartbreakers – so the pressure to ‘scrub up well’ with the hope of graduating from the ‘singles table’ at these #LifeEvents was immense. After roughly 2 years of bride and groom bonanzas I made a promise to anyone who would listen: I would marry myself.

“Oh haha! Great joke, Nat!’

My oath, it was. The destination would be a remote part of Australia – reached only via seaplane. No church, no Chuppah, just a full length mirror, one that I would maintain piercing eye-contact with while reciting my vows. The ceremony would climax with a poem that had the word ‘climax’ in it. At the reception guests would have to wear orange – the colour of self-confidence – and each give a speech on why I was the perfect person for me.

Friends and family laughed good-naturedly at my idea – they were too polite to speak the truth: I was bitter. I felt left out of an overblown ritual I had no respect for anyway. I thought that I’d never have a functional relationship, much less a wedding, (spoiler alert – I never did. I eloped).

So rather than accept the privilege of celebrating these heart-warming ceremonies or choosing not to be defined by a single day, I instead became consumed by it. I accused brides of self-indulgence and yet here I was, full of it myself. What Lena Dunham once wrote of her college years, ‘I hate myself … I cover up this hatred with a kind of aggressive self-acceptance’, could easily have applied to my situation.

So to the women marrying themselves, (and it’s always a woman, funny about that), I want to say, ‘Sister, I know you. You think you’re making a statement about empowerment? Pulling a Carrie Bradshaw with her shoes? Don’t you remember what Audre Lorde said?

‘For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.’

I totally get how marriage has evolved from its original functions, that being the trading of one (virginal) woman in exchange for resources, the confinement of sex and the production of children. But some hallmarks of the ritual remain: the engagement ring, the father walking his daughter down the aisle, the white dress – all of it rooted in a less than classy idea of ‘woman as property’.

Of course, many of these crass traditions become diluted in the face of love. But if, as a self-professed powerful lady, you’re determined to mimic the basic tenets of this tradition, can you really lay claim to liberation? Weddings are a rite that women have been co-opted into aspiring to so that they may gain credence within society. Oh but she’s celebrating herself! Because weddings are about love! No, relationships are about love. Weddings are about symbolism of love and stage fright – and increasingly about pomp. True, we all have a relationship with ourselves. But must we borrow the worst parts of a patriarchal system to prove it?

Grace Gelder tried to find love for six years before deciding to marry herself. But if her ‘process’ – from proposal to ceremony – was truly ’empowering’ as Gelder said, why did it happen after she gave up on dating? Can’t she date and still marry herself? Even Chen Wei-yih, who married herself five years ago, conceded that societal pressure played a large factor in her decision.

Yasmin Eleby took a vow that if she hadn’t found ‘the one’ by forty she’d marry herself. In a statement on her Facebook page, she wrote, ‘Don’t be afraid to take risks’. But what role can bravery play if you’ve already given yourself a conservative cut-off age? Wouldn’t it be braver to discard the script altogether and celebrate yourself in a way that has nothing to do with being coupled or single?

As with so many questions about life, one need only look to Beyonce. The superstar has found infinite ways to celebrate herself across a range of platforms. Indeed, her most recent incarnation, the celebration of herself as a sex-positive feminist, has only added to her iconic status.

Rituals imbue our lives with meaning and reverence. But love – whether for another or oneself – is found not in grand gestures so much as old fashioned consistency. And real love, to quote the most over-used bible verse at weddings, ‘does not boast’. So if these women have to put on a show to trumpet their own esteem, may I gingerly suggest, as someone who has been there, that what these ladies are really feeling deep down is not love and self-acceptance, but something approaching its opposite.


Henry Sapiecha

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